Bartholin’s glands are a pair of small glands found on each side of the opening of vagina. The function of these organs is to secrete fluid which helps to keep the vagina moist. Sometimes, these glands may be blocked causing the fluid to build up and results in inflammation and swelling of the glands. This is termed Bartholin’s cysts.
An abscess develops when a Bartholin’s cyst becomes infected. Infections can be caused by various bacterial organisms including E.coli, gonorrhoea, and chlamydia. If the cyst is small, normally there are no symptoms except for a slight lump felt at the vaginal opening. However, a large cyst may cause discomfort and pain during sexual intercourse, sitting or walking.
When you present to the clinic, your doctor will ask about your symptoms, review your medical history and perform a physical examination. During the pelvic examination, the doctor will inspect for any vaginal lumps. Samples of vaginal secretions will be taken to examine for any STD (sexually transmitted disease) infections. Your doctor may also recommend a biopsy to detect the presence of malignant (cancerous) cells.
The treatment options include:
Sitz baths: Soaking in a tub with warm water several times a day for 3 to 4 days may cause the cyst to rupture and drain.
Surgery: A minor surgery may be performed to drain the cyst and is carried out under local anaesthesia. A small incision is made in the cyst to drain the fluid and a catheter is placed to aid in complete drainage.
Medication: Antibiotics may be prescribed by your doctor to treat infection if the cyst is caused due to bacterial infections or STD.
Your doctor may recommend removal of the gland if there is a recurrence of the cyst even after the treatment.